MERCAN DEDE with MIRA BURKE and JANIS ORENSTEIN at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre (427 Bloor West), Saturday (February 3), 7 pm. $25-$55. http://www.breathconcert. com. Rating: NNNNN
Mercan Dede sounds cheerful over the phone from his Montreal home, even if he's not quite used to the cruel Canadian winter he's just returned to after playing another round of gigs in comparatively warm parts of Europe.
Over his decade-long career as a musician and producer, the Turkish Canadian has been bouncing back and forth between continents often enough to be used to climatic differences, travelling the world and spreading his odd mixture of traditional Sufi music and ambient electronica.
When traditional and electronic music mix, all too often the older elements are simply sampled and slapped over a beat, chosen more for their empty evocation of the exotic than for any understanding of what's been plundered for a hook.
Fortunately, Dede's approach is exactly the opposite. If anything, it could be described as borrowing from underground electronic music in the service of the Sufi tradition. As Dede explains, his laptops and samplers are deployed as just another way of organizing the process of improvising.
"We play some music from the albums, but it's more like the main theme, like in jazz where you have basic structure and you improvise on it.
"If I have 45 tracks in that one single song, I can mute everything and maybe leave just the bass line, and then we can play everything based on that. On top of that, I can sample the musicians while they're playing and loop them, too.
"The opportunities are endless, and in that sense electronic music has really brought a kind of opening up in terms of performing."
Dede grew up in Turkey, then moved to Saskatoon, where he was first exposed to DJ culture. Exploring that world got him back into playing the ney flute, which he'd been interested in as a child. When he came to Montreal, he brought together musicians from a wide range of backgrounds to explore the common ground between the trance-inducing aspects of Sufi music and the similarly hypnotic qualities of techno.
"Because it's so repetitive, techno creates a kind of transcendental feeling. In electronic music, especially electronic underground music, you have a similar type of feeling. That's why when techno started to divide into sub-categories, one of them ended up being called trance."